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Archive for Friday, August 11, 2006

Father, son document autism

August 11, 2006

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— David and Taylor Crowe just can't sit still.

Whenever the father and son have a spare moment, they are always doing something productive.

David, an orthodontist who lives in Cape Girardeau, and Taylor, his autistic son, are currently involved with projects aimed to educate people about autism.

Not only are they working on bringing to life The Tailor Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to autism research, but they also are putting the finishing touches on a new DVD that will help people understand autism.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. It can range from the low-functioning, which can include mental retardation, all the way to genius-level intellect with social difficulties consistent with autism, David said.

The Tailor Institute, which received a $200,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development, is attempting to advance the systems of care and services for high-functioning autistics. The organization has conducted interviews with parents, physicians, therapists and educators. It is developing educational materials and will begin conducting more research in the fall.

In 2000, the Crowes finished "Growing Up With Autism," a 20-minute VHS tape that shows Taylor's development growing up and ways to cope with the disorder. The DVD is a new, extended version of "Growing Up With Autism" and it runs about an hour with bonus materials.

Taylor Crowe paints recently at Capaha Park lagoon in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He will use the painting to open his presentation "The View from Here: My Life with Autism," at a conference Sept. 8 in Dallas.

Taylor Crowe paints recently at Capaha Park lagoon in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He will use the painting to open his presentation "The View from Here: My Life with Autism," at a conference Sept. 8 in Dallas.

The old video showed Taylor up to age 19. The new version incorporates how the 25-year-old lives with his disorder as he attends the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif.

"The target audience is educators, families, parents, siblings and people that either are new to the diagnosis of autism or want to learn more about it," David said.

Taylor said the video was important because autistic people can misinterpret things like teasing and joking.

"Some of the teachers I had as a kid would say stuff to me that made me think they wanted to kidnap me," Taylor said. "One said if I didn't get my work done, I'd never go home. They were teasing. I didn't know that."

Taylor said for this and several other reasons, educators need to be educated on autism.

He also said all autistic people should have a "circle of friends," and encourages them to have a variety of friends, all of whom are familiar with autism.

"Autistic people need friends, too," Taylor said. "I have a friend with Asperger syndrome who says I'm his chief number one friend. The reason is because he never had a circle of friends."

The first version was produced by Showcase Productions (now Showcase Technologies) and began being distributed in 2003 by the Council for Exceptional Children's Division on Developmental Disabilities. More than 3,000 copies of the video have been sold.

Tom Emmendorfer, who works at Showcase Technologies, is producer and editor of the DVD project and has spent more than 100 hours shooting footage, editing and conceptualizing ideas. Emmendorfer said they aim to have the project finished by early September.

"I see the potential Taylor has to offer the world," Emmendorfer said. "I see the gift he has and it's neat to be a part of that."

Taylor, who is high functioning, is studying animation at CalArts and intends to graduate in May 2007. He aspires to work at Dreamworks Animation.

When Taylor isn't studying or painting, he gives speeches at autism conferences. His next speech is at the 2006 Texas State Conference on Autism in September.

"I don't enjoy rehearsing and all," Taylor said. "But I know it's something I have to do to help other people with autism."

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